Travel Dairies: The Chef’s ‘Foodie’ Malvan Coast Trip Part I
At the beginning of last year, the Chef decided to do this trip down the Malwan coast, in search of some authentic food, local activities and meet some kick-ass Malwani chefs a.k.a the locals! No this trip doesn’t include alcohol, no partying just a great photo-op and a rustic culinary experience, a personal account of everything our beautiful Maharashtra has to offer. (Map Link)
Tarkarli, Malvan and Sindhudurg – “First leg where half the seafood of the Arabian Sea was consumed :)”
Boys and girls, foodies of every age, apply for those leaves, already! Make sure you have all the time in the world as this sort of a trip requires time, patience and a good weather. I quit my job in the month of October of 2014 and took a three and a half month break and before I got myself another gig, I decided to travel down south and discover a little of Malwan coast, on my own.
Why? Why not a fancy place in Europe or even Bali for that matter? Well I strongly believe that before we go travelling the world, we should definitely go all around our own country. India has some magnificent places and luckily for us, the Bombay Foodies, the Malwan Coast is one of them. So without any further ado, let’s begin this journey with me!
Budget and Route:
This trip was done on shoe string budget, and my budget here was less than 15 grand!!! I took the Jan-Shatabdi Express, second class seater which costed me around Rs. 470. I left from Dadar TT at 05.30 am. It is a 6 hour journey and along the way you will pass stations like, Chiplun, Ratnagiri and many more. My final destination was Kudal which I reached at about 1400 hrs. The journey is one filled with loads of tunnels, water bodies and vada pao! Season time for this region is November through February, but reaching Kudal in the afternoon wasn’t the best of the ideas. It gets hot as f*ck! Take a rickshaw to the bus station 5 minutes away from the railway station. I got lucky with that information as I had helpful co-passengers. From the bus-station buses go to Malvan and Sindhudurg, but only half way to Tarkarli. Since Tarkali was my destination and I was already drenched in sweat, I took the rickshaw which cost me around Rs. 450, again. Haggle as much as you can. Choosing the rickshaw was the best decision I had made, that minute,not only because Tarkarli is a good hour away from Kudal, and the auto was an airy and comfortable option but also because the journey is beautiful and you can ask your auto to stop when you please, to take beautiful photos of what surrounds you!
I had not really made any reservations at any hotel, just phoned Zyante Hotels a day in advance and told them I shall be there. For Tarkarli, I chose, this hotel which is towards the end of Tarkarli and at Rs 1000 a night for a double bed (I like to sleep diagonally *embarrased look*,) non-ac, hot water and electricity all day kinda place is apt for the lone traveler.
Since I reached at 1530 hrs, I assumed the kitchen would be shut but I found out the in-house chef had a few things he could quickly whip up for me and what was to follow defines “Foodgasm” (One of many I had on this trip!)
The spread as you can see included — Chicken Sukka, Tisrya Masala and Prawn fry Masala — FACKKKK!!! This was that kind of meal where I just wanted to thulp, thulp and continue thulping and then curl up and sleep like a little boy in my mothers’ lap :D. A chilled glass of the most delicious Sol kadi, warm Chappatis and steamed rice was just the thing required to go with this food, and it’s clear that I was pretty hungry. Over-eating led to some beautiful afternoon siesta, and in the evening I headed out to the beach.
Tarkarli beach is just a jump away from this Tarkarli Niwas (Zyante property), a small sand hill had to be crossed and there was the vast beach. I could count the number of people on my fingertips, mainly locals, college students and a few couples; it was quiet, clean and cool water on my feet was just what I wanted. I’m not the biggest fan of beaches, but this quiet beach is something I don’t mind going back to. In the distance I saw a huge group of people, and on asking the locals what it was, they said the government run MTDC was located there and for dinner, I headed out to check the food there.
Well in every state, the government run hotels always get the best spots and this one was no exception. Towards the last part of Tarkarli beach, sits this hotel. On entering the property, you see a big board next to the guards cabin saying, “Outsiders not allowed” but due to lapse of security, I just walked past. There were many ‘pakka’ huts which I’m guessing were the rooms, lots of coconut trees and in the distance I could see a canopy where the restaurant was. Almost all the tables were occupied, I did see a few foreign tourists and was pretty happy thinking that a decent number of people knew about the place! The menu looked pretty expensive for a govt. run place but I anyway called for — Chicken 65, Fish Curry and a Mutton dish which were accompanied by ‘vades’ and sol kadi. To my surprise, the 65 was a lame mix of the South Indian creation in a Chinese sauce, the fish curry was too watery for my liking and the mutton just seemed blah! Yes I know, how is it possible!? But it was!!! For the location, the food was not that impressive here, they even messed up the Sol Kadi!! Eating very less (due to still over-stuffed tummy) I just left the place.
The nights were cool, so not choosing an air-conditioned room was a good idea! Next morning, I woke up early, had tea and made my way to Malvan. Just a kilometer away is Sindhudurg, named after the huge fort, it is situated in the middle of the sea! To read more about the fort click here! I was told that near the fort is one of the few places where scuba-diving/snorkeling is allowed and being the lonely traveler that I was, I went for it. Before you get all excited and get a hard on, the sea isn’t the cleanest, and I did not choose the proper scuba diving, but a level lower called “pipe-diving” where the oxygen tank is on the boat and a 60 mt pipe is connected to your mouth for breathing.
I thought I wouldn’t see anything but when I dove in with my instructor, he took me deeper and deeper and that’s when he sh*t got clear! Corals, small fish the whole shabaang, yes it isn’t as fancy as the ones in Maldives or Sri Lanka, but for my first sea diving scene — It was friggin’ excellent and a must do for all people who go to Malvan! And at Rs. 1200 per person, it was worth it!! Back on land, the sun was right above my head and it was time to eat again. Thanks to tripadvisor.com, I found out quiet a few place to go to and eat but selected the closest and most local of all dining option conveniently called “Only Fish.”
A one page menu, Only Fish has one type of food — Only F*king Fish!!! All kinds that too, Prawns? Crab? Clams? Oysters? Kingfish? You come (cum) here (however you want to read it)! Never had fried Oyster before so Oyster thaali was definitely being called for along with a plate of Mud-crab masala. My food arrived, there were only two tables occupied when I got here, an Indian couple and brothers from Isreal(looked like it) and that was the last time I looked up. Jesus, Mary, Ganesha and all the other Gods were named while the food was being consumed because it was soo effing good!!! The fried oysters were like eating a lot of s*x! Popped ’em like hoe-addicts pop pills! Deep fried in rawa on the outside and soft inside this had to be the dish of the trip(So far!) The Mud-crab masala was so good that the shells were being consumed. Total damage Rs.580. Eyes shutting, pant button ripping open, groaning sounds being made and wondering how the hell was I going to head get back to my hotel. Whatever happened after this meal was a complete blur cos I don’t remember shit. How I reached my hotel? when did I sleep? Was I drugged? Well whatever it was, I am glad it happened because the same evening, I had an interactive session with Chef Sameer, who’s a local lad and has taken the kitchen at Zyante Tarkarli on rent to be his place to cook.
Sameer is a young chef, and when I told him I’d like to shoot him cooking, he was ecstatic! For our dinner, I left it upto to him and this is what he prepared for me — Pan fried Pomfret, Tisrya (clams) Masala and an authentic Malvani Fish Curry. I would love to show you’ll the video but then all his secret recipes will be revealed, so just go to Zyante Tarkarli Niwas and eat the food. Getting back to how the food tasted, fresh Pomfret picked this morning from the market just had a simple marinade of chili powder, mustard powder to name a few and was coated in a mix of rawa and rice flour and pan fried.
The flesh was firm, outer skin made crisp due to the rawa and flour mix and was devoured in 5 minutes :). The Tisrya Masala, was another simple dish with a coconut, mint and coriander masala. The clams just did not seem to end and I kept on eating till the shells formed a mountain on my plate. The best dish was the tangy Fish curry. Using the authentic spice, and its orange color from the chili and coconut that was blended and prepared earlier in the day; this day summed up my stay at Tarkarli. This trip has all been about authentic food, and this leg of the trip was wrapped up with this meal!
Cost of Hotel: 2000 (For 2 days)
Cost of Food at Hotel: 1800 (Inc water and Tea)
Cost of Food at MTDC: 600
Cost of Pipe Diving: 1200
Cost of Food at Only Fish (Sindhudurg): 580 (F*ck yea!!)
Total cost: 6180 (give or take)